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Sebastian Vettel on top in Korea as Red Bull dominate Friday practice
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Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Oct 2012   |  10:52 am GMT  |  87 comments

Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time in Friday’s second Free Practice for the Korean Grand Prix, edging out Red Bull team mate Mark Webber by 0.032 seconds, with championship leader Fernando Alonso third.

The Red Bulls were three tenths quicker than their rivals at the head of the field to go into Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Yeongam as favourites.

However, the McLarens and Ferraris weren’t too far behind in overall pace, with Mercedes also in the mix, to suggest there will be a close fight for the rest of the weekend.

“This afternoon the track was quite slippery to start with,” said Vettel. “But then I think it got a little bit better so, all in all, the car felt alright and now we see what we can do for tomorrow. I think we have to improve ourselves to match the others.”

Hamilton led the way in first Free Practice, but was at a loss to explain his lack of pace in the afternoon session where he finished eighth fastest, 0.885 seconds slower than pacesetter Vettel.

His McLaren team mate Jenson Button had a more positive day, finishing fourth fastest and was encouraged by his long-run pace following a race simulation at the end of the session.

Championship leader Alonso was pipped to the quickest time by Hamilton in the first session, but showed good pace in the second and was denied a quicker time after being held up by a HRT.

His Ferrari team light fuelled the car as they focused on improving their qualifying pace – which they have struggled with all season – and they appeared to make a step forward.

Their long-run towards the end of the session was also encouraging, and Alonso ended up third overall with team mate Felipe Massa sixth.

Lotus ran their new exhaust system on Kimi Raikkonen’s car with the Finn, who was racing in Korea for the first time, finishing 10th fastest, one place ahead of team mate Romain Grosjean.

Mercedes, who failed to score points with either car in Japan since the season opener in Australia, showed improved pace on the 5.615km circuit, with Michael Schumacher finishing fifth fastest, two places ahead of Nico Rosberg.

Having scored their fourth podium of the season in the Japanese Grand Prix with Kamui Kobayashi, Sauber struggled to replicate that form in Korea.

The Swiss team, who confirmed Monisha Kaltenborn as their new team principal on Thursday, taking over from owner Peter Sauber, saw Kobayashi and Sergio Perez finish 14th and 15th respectively.

Perez stopped midway through the session, when an actuator related to the engine failed. The team reported that there was no damage to the engine itself, but they were unable to get the Mexican back out on track.

With the circuit rarely used for most of the year, it took some time for the track to clean up and the first fast laps to come through.

Alonso set the early pace in the morning session, before Hamilton proved faster towards the end. In the afternoon, Vettel took top spot with 30 minute gone and held on as the rest of the field switched their focus to longer runs.

Conditions are expected to be warmer on Sunday than they have been in the previous two years the race has been held at Yeongam, with Pirelli predicting a two-stop race with around half a second between the soft and super-soft compounds.

KOREAN GRAND PRIX, Yeongam, Free Practice 2

1. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m38.832 33
2. Mark Webber Red Bull 1m38.864s +0.032 33
3. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1m39.160s +0.328 28
4. Jenson Button McLaren 1m39.219s +0.387 29
5. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 1m39.330s +0.498 31
6. Felipe Massa Ferrari 1m39.422s +0.590 30
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1m39.584s +0.752 36
8. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1m39.717s +0.885 25
9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 1m39.739s +0.907 33
10. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m39.839s +1.007 26
11. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1m39.957s +1.125 28
12. Bruno Senna Williams 1m40.089s +1.257 32
13. Paul di Resta Force India 1m40.112s +1.280 34
14. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 1m40.445s +1.613 28
15. Sergio Perez Sauber 1m40.745s +1.913 11
16. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m40.789s +1.957 31
17. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 1m40.997s +2.165 32
18. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1m41.200s +2.368 33
19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 1m41.602s +2.770 23
20. Timo Glock Marussia 1m42.596s +3.764 28
21. Charles Pic Marussia 1m43.066s +4.234 21
22. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1m43.067s +4.235 22
23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 1m43.869s +5.037 36
24. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 1m44.533s +5.701 24

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87 Comments
  1. Matthew Rees says:

    Is there a suggestion that Ferrari may have a DDRS now also ? I have seen some rumours via some spanish tweeters……..

    1. Chromatic says:

      Ferrari can’t say they don’t have a fast car : just 3 tenths off Vettel’s best lap today.

      1. AlexD says:

        they know it is fast, but not the fastest. Fast is not good enough.

    2. Bart says:

      Yes, they ran it today in practice but need some more track time and will use it for quali and race from India on

  2. Dave B says:

    Vettel on pole with Webber in 2nd making it a front row lock out for RedBull again. Vettel disappears off into the distance with Webber falling back through the field from the start. Alonso will ring the neck of the Ferrari to get as many points as possible whilst Button’s tyre management means he will be there or there abouts.

    Vettel wins (wild shaking of index finger!) with Alonso and Button making up the podium. Looks like we are in for an interesting race, NOT!

    If Vettel gets pole, Vettel gets the win.

    1. Tornillo Amarillo says:

      Is this a comment of a race I’ve already seen?

    2. Mitchel says:

      I think you’ve nailed everyone’s worst fears there, mate!

      It seems like a loooong time ago that we were all hoping for a Kimi win at Spa….

    3. carl craven says:

      When Vettel has the car to get pole he has a car to win. When Vettel doesn’t have the car to make pole he rarely wins. Sometimes he even flounders, despite the fact that you need a good car to win AND yes Vettel has shown some good race craft this year, the turn around in his performance is down to the car. If he had been in a Ferrari this year I suspect he’d have a few more points than Massa, but not as nearly as many as Alonso.

      1. RodgerT says:

        It’s true that Vettel has only won from off the front once. The lowest position Hamilton has won from is fourth.

        Over their careers Vettel, and Hamilton have similar percentages for how often they gain, and how often they lose position in a race relative to their grid position.

        It’s just that last year was so lopsided that it skews people’s view of Vettel.

        Of the top drivers on the grid right now the only ones who have had the storming drive from the back of the grid for a win are Alonso, and Schumcher.

      2. bearforce1 says:

        Seems to me that the only reason Seb is not miles ahead points wise is the alternator failures. Despite the RB8 being no faster than anyone else for the first half of the year Vettel still managed to excel.

  3. Wayne says:

    Seems to me that if RBR are on top in Friday practice, come satuerday they will be way ahead. They usually build up their pace over the weekend, and even hide it a bit early on!

    Hamilton having set-up problems again after a great PF1? What’s the deal there?

    1. Sebee says:

      Conspiracy theory for you below.

      1. Wayne says:

        Cheers!

    2. KRB says:

      He was good in FP3, finished 2nd, though still 0.5 sec’s down on Vettel! They are kings of the 3rd sector there.

  4. Mark says:

    After all the amazing racing andf excitement so far, let’s hope these last few races don’t turn into a yawn-fest with Red Bull running away with every race.

    McLaren really needs to step it up. I can’t see Ferrari giving Alonso the car he needs. Which is disappointing, and I hope I’m wrong. I wouldn’t mind seeing Alonso win another championship, given his stellar performances earlier this season.

  5. F1fan4life says:

    James, could I please hear your podium predictions for the race? Your prediction last weekend wasn’t bad. I’m going with Vettel, Raikkonen and Alonso. I’m predicting Senna to have his best weekend also :p

  6. Becken says:

    James,

    German press and Ted Kravitz said that Button have a new floor, which wasn´t incorporated in Lewis´s car.

    Do you have any inside info about that?

    1. carl craven says:

      It might be worth considering that now Lewis is going to Mercedes, Mclaren might not want to share their secrets with a driver who not longer has a future in the team. It’s not uncommon.

  7. Neshaen says:

    Adrian Newey does it again! Watch out for Fernando and Hamilton!

    1. Bring Back Murray says:

      ..in the Red Bull mirrors?

      1. AlexD says:

        Yeap, you indeed need to watch in mirrors when the blue flag is on:-)

  8. Tom in adelaide says:

    I have a bad feeling about this…..

    1. AlexD says:

      Bad feeling I already had. Now I am certain of something bad:-)

  9. GoChecoGo says:

    oh my god, Jenson is ahead of Lewis again! I can see another tweet coming soon…

  10. Michael says:

    If Alonso can quailfy in top 4 can he fight the bulls for the win?

    1. Chromatic says:

      Hadn’t thought of that one: Alonso The Bull-fighter. Ole.

      1. Jordan says:

        F1′s matador! Good one!

  11. Chris South says:

    Keen to know more about this DDRS system….or whatever it is…or if it is being used to divert attention from something else new on the car…

  12. Cedgy says:

    I might be optimistic but it would be nice to see Alonso fighting for pole tomorrow! Forza Ferrari!

  13. Rob Newman says:

    In the long run, the Ferraris and the McLarens are quicker than the Red Bulls. Looks like the Red Bulls are harder on the tyres. It is easier to overtake in the DRS zone. The race could be interesting.

  14. Miha Bevc says:

    There are tweets about McLaren having double DRS too. We’re up to a real development race for the last 5 races.

    So Red Bull are favorites for wront row tommorow, but on sunday they will be haunted down for the entire race, I guess …

    1. KRB says:

      What will be haunting them during the race? Hallowe’en’s around the corner.

  15. David Newsome says:

    Hi James,

    Any idea what McLaren were doing with top-speed? They were slowest of all, and a good 10kph down on the quickest. Is this all to do with gear ratios and wing settings, thinking about DRS in quali and the race? What could explain this?

    Thanks,
    David

    1. Nigel says:

      It has been suggested elsewhere that they’ve turned their engines down for practice, as they have used more (all) of their 8 engine allocation than Red Bull and Ferrari.

    2. abashrawi says:

      I think they are conserving engines. My understanding is that they are on their last allocation.

  16. Bring Back Murray says:

    Game Over

    1. Geee says:

      It’s a shame really, as I believe Alonso really deserves the title this year- not that he hasn’t previously.

      I wish I could grow to enjoy watching Vettel leading from the front, it makes no sense that I don’t, since I had no problem with Schumacher doing it in his day!

      I predict… Vettel, Webber, Alonso. Boring, but I think that’s the rest of the season now.

  17. Scott says:

    Hamilton’s time was on the soft (harder) compound, though. For various reasons – mainly locking up into the first corner – he never got a quick lap on the supersofts when they had some life in them. It will be closer in qualifying, I suspect. Button’s pace suggests the McLaren should be able to challenge.

  18. joshua says:

    As JA mentioned in a previous discussion, If Mark Webber is at the front with Vettel, it’s time to pack up for the rest of the teams.

    Great for Mark, but even if he sticks it on pole he will have to yield to Seb in the race due to the Championship.

    I really hope Lewis and Kim can find something in FP3 or its all over….for this weekend anyway.

  19. Sebee says:

    Conspiracy Theory # 12
    McLaren don’t want Lewis to by chance take #1 with him.

    Conspiracy Theory # 13
    McLaren don’t want Lewis to outshine Button in last races.

    I say too bad. He’s not in this Championship anyway, no point damaging relationship with Button. Wayne will have to keep the hope alive for his idol. Unfortunately, no Lewis WDC for long time to come.

    1. Chris says:

      Conspiracy theory 14 – you talk nonsense!!

      1. Simmo says:

        Conspiracy theory # 15 – Can we stop with the conspiracies please :)

      2. Sebee says:

        But right now Vettel is conspiring with Newey to win the Korean GP.

      3. Sebee says:

        Conspiracy theory #22: where is Massa finding the speed lately? Magic? Or Ferrari now need him to take points off others amid mix things up?

    2. Nigel says:

      McLaren would be delighted if Hamilton got the championship.

      There’s plenty of history to prove that teams don’t have to actually like their drivers – although it does help.

      1. SP says:

        I would not be the least surprised if this is the case. A suspicious broken part in the rear in Japan caused the sudden lack of pace and Lewis suffered BAD understeer. And here, hes having set-up issues. And all along, JB is getting on fine.

        Funny that, normally, when Mclaren suffer with setup issues, its usually down to the car not being quite suited to the track…. and both drivers have issues. All of a sudden, its just Lewis!

        Ah well, if they dont have a dominant car next year…. they will struggle. Especially if Mr. No Grip is the lead driver.

      2. KRB says:

        Would certainly go out on a high. And two DWC’s from six season’s, is a good recruitment tool for talented future drivers.

        I can’t for the life of me seeing McLaren wanting to hamper Lewis, though it was odd seeing Lewis trail Button again in FP2. Up to Singapore (before LH’s Mercedes announcement) Lewis was up 12-2 in the qualifying head-to-head.

        So that’s the head honcho’s at McLaren. Maybe a mid-level mechanic who likes Button better could wreak some havoc, though you’d think an operation like McLaren would have procedures that would ‘out’ such a rogue force in short order.

      3. Sebee says:

        Now that Korea is in the books, do you like my theory more?

    3. Wayne says:

      There’s always hope! A win for Lewis and a retirement for Seb Bieber and it’ll all be back on.

      Conspiracy theory 15: Hamilton is in fact a cybernetic driving machine sent back from the future to change the present for fans everywhere.

      1. Sebee says:

        Seb Bieber! Hilarious!

        I like your conspiracy theory. But fear that’s the future is a risk as future Lewis sabotaged present Lewis by signing for Mercedes.

        I say Lewis needs to go back to the future!

  20. carl craven says:

    It’s a shame that 3/4 of a seasons worth of hard work on Alonso’s part will go to waste now Vettel has a new toy on his car.

    1. Mocho_Pikuain says:

      Same story for the last 5 years, Fernando being excellent but other drivers having way better cars.

      1. thejudge13 says:

        Even Schumacher says its over for Alonso and its Vettel’s to lose.

      2. and bad strategy calls by Ferrari…

      3. Brad says:

        I don’t get this. Was’nt it Alonso’s decision to got to Ferrari and demand nr1 status. Him being in a slower car is his own undoing.

    2. Sebee says:

      Waste?

      The don’t give away WDCs in candy boxes.

      Seb is earning it 100%. Why can’t people see this fact?

      1. Geee says:

        Because irrationally we don’t like him. Sorry, but his finger waving will never make me smile.

      2. Steve says:

        You still thing Seb could win if alonso has an equally fast car?

      3. Sebee says:

        I’d pay to see that show. Honestly, I think Alonso has a lot more to lose in such a scenario than soon to be Three Time Champ.

    3. DonSimón says:

      If the team don’t match his effort it means nothing. F1 has always been an arms race.

    4. Carl S says:

      My thoughts exactly….

  21. Eric Weinraub says:

    Time to get the children out of the stewards offices…. While I believe there needs to be officiating, the frequency with with penalties, fines, and reprimands are being handed out reminds me, sadly, like NASCAR. The point of the stewards is not to police the sport but to insure fair and competitive racing. Beyond that, its up to the drivers to sort it out. While you could argue that Senna, Prost, and Schumacher ushered in this current system, it has gone to far.

  22. Rich C says:

    Newey must be banned for next season.

    1. Sebee says:

      For being too good? What’s next?

      This is F1. You want second tier fall back to GP2 or your local karting track.

      1. carl craven says:

        Touring Cars is (or at least used to be when I watched it) far more exciting that F1.

    2. Chris says:

      Red Bulls has a whole host of designers and engineers!! They are paid to do a job just like the drivers are!!

      Just make all the cars the sane ;)

      1. Wild Man says:

        The cream will still rise to the top.

        Better teams will have better set-up & better strategy.

    3. KRB says:

      There was a story that Lauda was trying to get Newey to jump to Mercedes. I don’t see that happening, but who knows. Would be weird having Brawn (heavy on the mechanical grip side) and Newey (heavy on the aerodynamic grip side) in the same team.

      I’ve no doubt that Newey would rather be working with a Mercedes engine in those Red Bulls, but I can’t see him up and leaving from what is the most successful outfit of the last three seasons.

  23. Johnny Benerba says:

    Well isn’t that an interesting round of free practice sessions! Red Bull seems very solid and Vettel is looking might racy. I think Alonso is going to have to deliver something special in qualifying to keep hold of this championship. If Vettel gets pole, he is going to run away from the field early and take home the 25 points.

  24. Vernier-Caliper says:

    Let’s see how this track evovles over the weekend as it gets rubbered in I expect times to keep on tumbling.

  25. Horno says:

    Alonso will pull off the trick, if he can make it past the first corner.. mark my words!
    I think in Suzuka he would have been 2nd at the finish.

  26. David Goss says:

    James

    I’ve been meaning to ask for a while, but there seems to be a definite pattern with McLaren’s early weekends:

    1. Car seems great in first practise
    2. Setup gets fiddled with
    3. Car goes backwards for later practises and qualifying

    I see this with Button a lot, but also Hamilton. I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than I can perceive, but do McLaren do too much messing around with their setup and ruin their own qualifying?

    Thanks

    1. F1addicted says:

      The only thing I can think of:

      - FP1 the teams know less about the track, so driver ability to make a time shows through

      - FP2, 3, Q, R; Red Bull are just much better at tweaking and fine tuning their car, so the car itself makes the difference, while McLaren are just not as good as fine tuning a car (or building a car that can be fine tuned)

  27. madmax says:

    I see Martin Donelly is on the steward panel.

    Watch out M Schumacher.

    1. Peter C says:

      No,it’s all right, he’s not a Brit.

      He’s Irish.

      1. Peter C says:

        Oh no. Ireland lost 1 -6 to Germany last night.

        Watch out M.Schumacher!

      2. madmax says:

        He is British. Northern Ireland man.

  28. Chromatic says:

    Two drivers will be especially vulnerable at the start of Sunday’s race: Alonso and Grosjean. They will be treading on eggshells to ensure survival and predictably, there are many drivers around them who will take full advantage of this.

    GROSJEAN: could be the problem is he can only concentrate on one car at a time. So, he is fine on the track duelling with another car, but not at the start where he is surrounded by cars. If this is the issue, there is no solution in sight…sadly

    1. Simmo says:

      Worst thing to happen would be Grosjean crashes into Alonso!

      1. KRB says:

        If he crashed into Seb I wonder if he’d call him a cucumber, or gherkin, whatever it was he called Karthikeyan. I think Seb flies off the handle pretty quick, and it’s always the other guy’s fault … always.

  29. Tim Parry says:

    Those 2:00 an start times are a little past our bedtimes here in the state. What condition was the track in. Does it still look like a construction site? Any left-over food in the fridge from last year?

  30. Richard says:

    Yes if there was any justice in this world, then the championship should go to Alonso, but recent accidents at the start have snatched his lead away, and Adrian Newey has improved the Red Bull in time for Vettel to come in for the killer stroke. – I’d rather like Alonso and Vettel to take each other out to let Hamilton and Raikkonen back in just to make it more interesting. McLaren have let Hamilton down badly this year, and I wonder now what these set up issues are all about.

    1. D17MO.D says:

      I for one am not too worried for Hamilton at the moment because:
      1) his fastest FP1 lap would have got him 3rd in the times during FP2
      2) Pretty much everyone increases their lap times by 3 tenths or more which would put Hamilton right in the mix

      … Let’s just hope the ‘set up issues’ that have become so apparent since his contract signing (just stating a fact not a conspiracy) don’t rear their ugly head again :-)

  31. HansB says:

    Well… its much closer than in Suzuka, tomorrow track rubbered in and on Sunday warmer weather is predicted.
    Nothing decided yet.

  32. Siddle says:

    I agree with a number of contribututors particularly David Goss (26) and do not wish to detract from his comments and questions.

    McLarens performance is extraordinary. I am sure Dassault Systemes would not wish to take the credit for computer analysis resulting in a car going slower and will wish to do better overnight. If not McLaren will have to take the sole blame. It could of course be Hamilton’s fault trying to make McLaren look stupid.

    How a car that was quick in P1 can be slower in P2 only McLaren can explain. If their explanations are similar to pre event pronouncements it will not be worth a great deal. They have had a good car this year, but have been out managed.

    McLaren took a very mature 12 year old and ‘honed’ him into a driver that took on and beat Fernando in his first year of F1. Look what 6 more years of ‘honing’ have brought, a tweeting twit.

    Who in the senior management of McLaren is going to be ‘promoted’ in order to facilitate change, there is after all no failure in McLaren.

    For those Jensons fans out there and I am one, I feel it could be some time before we see Jenson with his ‘Lucky Walls’ sign. For those who do not know who Dan Dare was, do not bother.

    The Mekon has apparently been sighted at various F1 events although probably not Korea.

    Siddle

    Has anybody asked Jenson why he has not followed Lewis on Twitter. Is it because he has been following Lewis at almost every F1 circuit for the last six years? I think he have may have said something to this effect but have not seen the direct quote.

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